E-commerce is expanding throughout Europe, and the UK is leading the trend. In a recent report from the Office of National Statistics, the UK is shown to be the top EU territory for e-commerce, with 79 percent of Brits ordering online in 2014, an increase of 44 percent since 2005. It therefore comes as no surprise that this year’s Black Friday is predicted to be the UK’s first ever £1 billion shopping day.
Although Scandinavian countries are hot on the heels of the UK with 78 percent and 77 percent of shoppers buying online, some European countries are lagging behind. The ONS reported that in the same year, only 10 percent of Romanians and 22 percent of Italians ordered online, so it seems there is scope for the rest of Europe to learn from the UK’s successes.
Why has the UK seen such large e-commerce growth?
The results suggest that UK retailers have tapped into the right technologies to make the online shopping process an easy and comfortable experience for consumers.
Many UK retailers have been smart in investing in optimisation and re-engagement technology and hiring the right people to implement these technologies. In fact, almost a quarter of UK businesses were employing IT specialists in 2013, above the EU average of 20 percent. They have cottoned on to the need to implement online logistics if they want to turn traffic into conversions and generate sales. Checkout abandonment is a disheartening reality for any online retailer, and it would be wrong to expect the majority of traffic to make a purchase. But there are ways of boosting the odds, lowering the cost per sale and raising returns on investment.
One of the major causes of checkout abandonment is a lack of transparency. Additional charges for things like shipping are part of the process for many retailers, but it’s important to be up-front about them and not conceal these charges in the small print right at the end of the journey: the latter will annoy a consumer far more than the former.
Similarly, fear of the unknown is also a conversion killer during checkout. If your customers don’t know how many more hurdles they need to jump over they will be more likely to give up. Having a simple progress bar removes that concern.
Over the past year, many UK retailers have started to offer more generous delivery options, whether heavily discounted, free on particular days, or straight to your door. We’ve recently seen Argos' move to rival Amazon, offering same-day delivery to all UK online shoppers. Such change is proof that the more options you give your customers, the more likely they’ll want to shop with you. Choosing how their purchase is delivered provides consumers with an element of control in the process.
Re-engagement is key
Effective on-site engagement relies on the seamless integration of initial prospecting, onsite conversion tools and follow-up retargeting. Retailers who adopt a multi-channel approach with their website will naturally see a great return on investment. Of these different channels, email re-engagement holds a huge opportunity for online retailers, hence why it is one of the most popular strategies.
For those who are using this strategy, make sure you’re doing it right. Re-engagement emails should not be fired out to all previous engagers using the same blanket email. In order to achieve the best result, companies need to be using the customer data they have at their disposal. Optimised re-engagement emails mean segmented recipient lists, short subject headers and, most importantly, targeted content sent to the right people at the right time. Beware not to bombard your customers with too many emails, as this will often leave a negative brand impression.
So what does 2016 hold for UK e-commerce?
Looking ahead, UK retailers need to tune their strategies to match the growth of mobile commerce (or m-commerce) as more and more people don’t just want to shop from home, they want to do it on the go, using the most accessible device. International research conducted by RetailMeNot found that UK shoppers are set to spend £14.95 billion via mobile devices in 2015, an increase of 77.8 percent on £8.41 billion in 2014, while PC spending will grow by just 2 percent. Other retailers such as John Lewis have announced similar results, with John Lewis’ annual ‘How we Shop, Live and Look’ report announcing that m-commerce revenues rose by 68 percent in the last year.
UK retailers must follow the trends of consumer behaviour and embrace the fact that mobile is fast impacting our shopping habits. Retailers must not only integrate technologies to help optimise the on-site journey, they must optimise and adapt for mobile as well as desktop, as more and more customers will be arriving on their site via their mobile phones.
The author: Tom Weeks is director of retail at e-commerce champion Ve Interactive.